The forty-one years between the Society of Jesus’s papal suppression in 1773 and its eventual restoration in 1814 remain controversial, with new research and interpretations continually appearing. Shore’s narrative approaches these years, and the period preceding the suppression, from a new perspective that covers individuals not usually discussed in works dealing with this topic. As well as examining the contributions of former Jesuits to fields as diverse as ethnology—a term and concept pioneered by an ex-Jesuit—and library science, where Jesuits and ex-Jesuits laid the groundwork for the great advances of the nineteenth century, the essay also explores the period the exiled Society spent in the Russian Empire. It concludes with a discussion of the Society’s restoration in the broader context of world history.
From the first encounter with King James vi of Scotland, the Society of Jesus believed in the possibility of his conversion. Such a religious transformation would reverberate beyond the northern kingdom and indeed beyond the British Isles. Finances and proposals were advanced to attain this goal. With noticeable encouragement from James in the 1590s as he positioned himself to ascend the English throne as Elizabeth’s successor, many Catholics rallied to his cause. Once he had ascended the throne, he could cast caution to the proverbial wind and disclose his religious allegiance. Presented here are two memorials, both most likely written by the Scottish Jesuit William Crichton, on the possibility of James’s conversion. The first can be dated circa 1580, at the very inception of the project; the second is post-Gunpowder Plot (1605) by which time nearly everyone had abandoned any hope in its successful completion. But Crichton, naively or optimistically, still insisted there was a chance.
John Ogilvie’s martyrdom in February 1615 should be seen in the context of a struggle for the hearts and minds of the people of Scotland between the Jesuit mission and James vi and i’s government. Nowhere was this struggle more intense than within the town of Glasgow, where Ogilvie was imprisoned, tried and executed and which a large and influential Catholic community had long called home. Propaganda was disseminated by both sides during and after his trial and the archbishop of Glasgow, John Spottiswood, orchestrated its proceedings as a demonstration of royal and archiepiscopal power that involved local elites as well as central government officials. This article examines the events that took place in Glasgow during the winter of 1614–15 and provides a prosopographical analysis of the people involved. It makes the argument that, as had been the case during the Protestant Reformation of the 1540s and 1550s, Scotland’s church and state mishandled Ogilvie’s public ritual execution such that the local religious minority (now Catholics) became emboldened and more committed to Counter-Reformation.
The Society of Jesus’s mission in Scotland lasted from 1581 until the papal suppression of 1773, yet the Jesuits’ impact on religious life there during this period remains an underexplored aspect of Scotland’s early modern history. The articles in this special issue offer fresh perspectives on the mission, with particular attention paid to one of its most dramatic and controversial events—the trial and execution of John Ogilvie for treason in Glasgow during the autumn and winter of 1614–15. Fresh insights are provided here on Ogilvie’s martyrdom from the perspective of local and international politics and Jesuit theology. The familiar theme of the Jesuits’ attempted conversion of James vi and i is also revisited, and new research is presented on Catholicism in seventeenth-century Scotland in articles about the Jesuits’ work in the Highlands and their appeal to the memory of the medieval Queen Saint Margaret. Overall, this issue attests to historians’ enduring fascination with John Ogilvie’s martyrdom and what it can teach us about religion, politics and society in early modern Scotland, and the potential of the Jesuits’ activities there as a rich field for future research.
This paper aims to sketch a little of the background history of the ideas behind the events that led to the martyrdom of John Ogilvie. In so doing, no pretense is made at reducing politics, religion, personal commitment and loyalty to one single ideological cause, nor, even worse, claim that ideologies drove people and events before them like skittles. The aim is more modest than that of tracing a series of causes and effects. If it fails to enmesh with the historical realities such as traced by eminent historians such as Durkan and Dilworth,1 nevertheless it might still help in the interpretation of these lives and events.